Wesley Eggleston | Staff Writer
The Hampton Pirates (4-4, 3-2 in MEAC) are set to square off against the South Carolina State Bulldogs (4-3, 3-1 in MEAC) this Saturday in Orangeburg, S.C.. The matchup will pit the Pirates in yet another clash with MEAC opponents. Hampton is coming off a hard day at the office, suffering a 40-7 loss to the Tribe of William and Mary.
Heading into this weekend, the team looks to get back on track to close out the 2015 season on a high note and head coach Connell Maynor has made this clear to his players. “We have to play better. We tip off our hats to [William and Mary], but we got to do better at executing what we’re doing,” said coach Maynor.
Both teams want to make a final push at this juncture of the season, and as fellow conference rivals, every game at this point is critical to how each teams’ playoff chances are impacted.
The Bulldogs will benefit in having home field advantage in this game, something that they have capitalized on this season going 2-1 at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium. The Pirates will have their work cut out for them as their defense attempts to stop the Bulldogs and their #3 MEAC-ranked quarterback, freshman Caleb York.
Through six games, York has an efficiency rating of 122.16 and a completion percentage of 56.44. During his last outing against Delaware State, York completed 17 of his 28 passes for 241 yards and threw for two touchdowns and one interception.
He benefits throwing to top receiver on his team, senior Taquan West, who is averaging 15 yards per reception this season. He gets 24.1 more yards per game than the next closest receiver to him on the Bulldogs. His last outing was deemed his best performance of the season as the S.C. product had nine catches for 113 yards.
Hampton’s cornerbacks will have to make sure they get good coverage on deep routes when West and the Bulldogs’ Top-5 ranked offense makes their moves to the second level of the field.
“Well he’s a smaller, speedy guy who catches a lot of screen plays”, said senior sports management major and North Carolina native cornerback Jordan Hill, about Cook’s ability as a pass catcher. “[He] gets the ball in space, so we plan on limiting his space to work with gang tackling. The defensive pursuit has to be good if we plan to slow him down and we have to get everybody to stop his run-after-catch yards.”
“We are going to keep safety help over the top, and that will be a form of doubling him when he tries to go deep” coach Maynor said. “We just play man underneath, and then we will have zone coverage, and our guys will have to play their zones. We are going to keep an eye on him because we know they want to get him the ball.”
The Bulldogs gain an average of 153.6 yards on the ground against opponents.
“[We need to] beat them at the point of attack, penetrate their offensive line, and play in their back field [as much as possible]” shared Pirates’ defensive lineman Charles Owens III, a senior sports management major from Upper Marlboro, Md. The Bulldogs have given up six sacks on the season for 35 yards, so Hampton will have their work cut out for them if they want to knock York off his spots. On the other side, to this point of the season the ground game has been of great impact for Hampton. They are averaging 131.9 per game, most by the legs of Christopher Dukes who by himself grounds out 63.68 yards, and is assisted by fellow running back David Watford who is getting 32 yards per game.
If time of possession can be bolstered in this game by a solid rushing game, and time of possession they will be in good shape. The passing attack needs to be in full effect too though. Starting quarterback for the Pirates had a tough outing last game, but coach Maynor has full confidence in him going forward. He still has an efficiency rating of 117.27 on the season.
“He’s got to play one snap at a time. It’s important for him to get us out of bad plays, and into good plays when he goes into make all his pre snap reads”, coach Maynor said on behalf of his starting quarterback Gr. David Watford as far as shaking off his game that struggled in the previous, and how not to have a setback going forward.
It will be an exciting game as the Pirates play their second to last road game of the season. It should include high drama, and high intensity for both sides considering everything at stake for both teams.